Parallel Action

Connecting separate scenes or actions across time and space in a sequence.

Misha Tenenbaum avatar
Written by Misha Tenenbaum
Updated over a week ago

The manipulation of time and space has some of the most profound effects on the audience's perceptions and understanding of the film's characters and events. The editor wields that power through the juxtaposition of shots.

Parallel Action

Parallel Action occurs when two or more scenes or actions, happening in different locations, are put together in a single sequence to make it feel as if they are happening at the same time. This technique creates parallel narratives, which help build anticipation, tension, suspense, and/or show the relationship between the different sets of actions. This technique can also be called Parallel Editing or Intercutting.

Watch an example of Parallel Action from the short film, Authentic. In this scene, the main character, Nicolás is making homemade tortillas with his Abuelita (grandmother) in Brooklyn; while Nicolás' boss, the Chef, is back in Manhattan waiting for him to return to the busy restaurant with the tortillas.

Parallel Action vs Cross Cutting

The terms Parallel Action and Cross Cutting are often used interchangeably by editors to mean the same thing. However, the two can have slightly different meanings as well.

Crosscutting can refer to cuts that occur between different scenes or actions that can either be taking place simultaneously or at different times. Parallel Action is a type of crosscutting in which the edits create a parallel of the edited events leading the viewer to compare and contrast the juxtaposition of those scenes.

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